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By The Staff

UP thumb ... GOOD TURNOUTS. More than 100 people turned out for this week’s school board election forums, sponsored by the Committee for the People and this newspaper. All candidates attended (except one, who has all but bowed out) and all but two of the city’s school board members turned out as well (only Ralph Garcia from West, who isn’t seeking re-election, and Ramon “Swoops” Montaño from East, who is not up for election, were no-shows).

So we’d call it a good turnout all around — indicative of some healthy interest in this year’s school elections.

DOWN thumb ... CLEAR DIVISIONS. If you were to ever think that we are a united community, a question of school district unification should make you think again. At both the East and West forums, the candidates were asked about the issue of administratively consolidating the two districts, and their collective responses were telling.

At East’s forum, the candidates were either openly in favor of consolidation or open to its consideration. But at West, nearly all were adamantly opposed. To us, it was a clear indication of just how divided Las Vegas remains — an unfortunate reality that we really should address.

UP thumb ... EXTRACURRICULAR DEBATES. At West, candidates were asked an “academics vs. athletics” question and they responded as you might expect: that academic pursuits are clearly the priority but sports is also important. We certainly agree, but we would have liked to see other activities placed up there with athletics, such as choir, band and so many of the other valuable extras that receive far less support, financially and otherwise, than the athletic squads.

At East, that particular question didn’t come up, but the candidates were asked about how the district should pay for extracurricular activities. There were a variety of candidate responses, about what is done now and what should be done, but none were completely satisfying.

Let’s face it, extracurricular activities take a back seat in both districts, and if it wasn’t for the financial support that parents provide to these clubs and organizations, they probably wouldn’t be able to go anywhere or do much of anything. Unfortunately, when parents have to fork over the money for their kids to participate, children from low-income families get left out. Somehow, that needs to be corrected.

So why the thumb up? Because the questions encouraged the discussion, and the discussion needs to continue well past election day.

DOWN thumb ... LESSONS LEARNED. When asked about lessons learned from the alleged assaults at Robertson’s football camp last summer, we wish someone had pointed out that hazings — or more bluntly stated, the act of humiliating someone else — must never be condoned or tolerated in our schools. And that if ever an adult smiles and turns away from such behavior, serious consequences should follow.

UP thumb ... ELECTION DAY. It’s Tuesday, Feb. 3, for both school districts. Let’s all get out and vote, and let our voices be heard.